Leaked ICE Guide Offers Unprecedented View of Agency’s Asset Forfeiture Tactics
by Ryan Devereaux and Spencer Woodman
Posted November 8, 2017
An internal handbook obtained by The Intercept provides a rare view into the extensive asset seizure operations of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, an office that trains its agents to meticulously appraise the value of property before taking it.
HSI’s 71-page “Asset Forfeiture Handbook,” dated June 30, 2010, underscores the role seizures play in “helping to fund future law enforcement actions” and covering costs “that HSI would otherwise be unable to fund.” It thus offers an unprecedented window into ICE’s wide-ranging asset forfeiture operations and the premium the agency places on seizing valuable property. Forfeiture proceeds can bolster ICE’s partnerships with local police departments, which are now the subject of heightened debate given the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration agenda.
ICE confirmed to The Intercept that the handbook reflects the agency’s most up-to-date guidance on asset forfeiture. Agents under its instruction are asked to weigh the competing priorities of law enforcement versus financial profit and to “not waste instigative time and resources” on assets it calls “liabilities” — which include properties that are not profitable enough for the federal government to justify seizing. “As a general rule, if total liabilities and costs incurred in seizing a real property or business exceed the value of the property, the property should not be seized,” the document states. More…
The Great College Loan Swindle
By Matt Taibbi
Posted November 8, 2017
Americans don’t understand the student-loan crisis because they’ve been trained to view the issue in terms of a series of separate, unrelated problems. They will read in one place that as of the summer of 2017, a record 8.5 million Americans are in default on their student debt, with about $1.3 trillion in loans still outstanding.
In another place, voters will read that the cost of higher education is skyrocketing, soaring in a seemingly market-defying arc that for nearly a decade now has run almost double the rate of inflation. Tuition for a halfway decent school now frequently surpasses $50,000 a year. How, the average newsreader wonders, can any child not born in a yacht afford to go to school these days?
In a third place, that same reader will see some heartless monster, usually a Republican, threatening to cut federal student lending. The current bogeyman is Trump, who is threatening to slash the Pell Grant program by $3.9 billion, which would seem to put higher education even further out of reach for poor and middle-income families. This too seems appalling, and triggers a different kind of response, encouraging progressive voters to lobby for increased availability for educational lending. More…
The Endgame of Financialization: Stealth Nationalization
by Charles Hugh Smith
Posted November 7, 2017
This is the new model of nationalization: central banks control the valuation of private-sector assets without actually having to own them lock, stock and barrel.
As you no doubt know, central banks don’t actually print money and toss it out of helicopters; they create a digital liability and use this new currency to buy assets such as bonds and stocks. Central banks have found that they can take control of the stock and bond markets by buying up as much as these markets as is necessary to force price and yield to do the central banks’ bidding.
Central Banks Have Purchased $2 Trillion In Assets In 2017. This increases their combined asset purchases above $15 trillion. A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money–especially if you add in assets purchased by sovereign wealth funds, dark pools acting on behalf of monetary authorities, etc. More…
How our banking system destroys the free market
By Chris Kanthan
Posted November 6, 2017
It will be shocking to many Americans that our free market system is deeply and fundamentally flawed. Many people understand that we have crony capitalism that creates loopholes to benefit those at the top. The financial crisis of 2008 and the following bailouts also exposed the rotten financial system and the rigged Wall Street. But there’s something else that’s even more significant and innate in the corruption of our economy: the Federal Reserve Bank. This is an arcane issue that puts most people to sleep, so let’s make it easy and fun by story-telling. It’s about a small town called Murika.
One fateful day, Murika changed forever! That’s when a woman named Janet came to Murika and told the people she had an amazing solution to bring unimaginable prosperity. She talked in really complex jargons that nobody understood, which only convinced them that she was really smart. They agreed to turn over their banks and money to Janet.
Janet’s miracle was a money-printing machine! She told Murikans that nobody will stop them from their dreams. You want to buy a house or a car? Janet will give you the money you want! Want to start a restaurant or even a factory? Come to Janet. Forget the old, cranky bankers. This is the new and improved Murika! More…
How Big Pharma Fuels the Opioid Epidemic
By Lynn Parramore
Posted November 5, 2017
Over a 40-year career, Philadelphia attorney Daniel Berger has obtained millions in settlements for investors and consumers hurt by a rogues’ gallery of corporate wrongdoers, from Exxon to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. But when it comes to what America’s prescription drug makers have done to drive one of the ghastliest addiction crises in the country’s history, he confesses amazement.
The U.S. prescription drug industry has opened a new frontier in public havoc, manipulating markets and deceptively marketing opioid drugs that are known to addict and even kill. It’s a national emergency that claims 90 lives per day. Berger lays much of the blame at the feet of companies that have played every dirty trick imaginable to convince doctors to over-prescribe medication that can transform fresh-faced teens and mild-mannered adults into zombified junkies. More…
Gamechangers: USC, ASU, Independent Voting Partner to Challenge Two-Party Academia
by Chad Peace
Posted November 4, 2017
Arguably, academia is as guilty as the media, the politicians, and the two major parties themselves, of promoting partisanship.
This is, in large part, because political scientists analyze elections as a contest between Democrats and Republicans. Polls are designed and analyzed to explain or forecast red or blue victories. And even voting rights are scrutinized based on which of two political teams is advantaged or disadvantaged by a given law.
But how can we continue to credibly analyze the current state and future of our democracy when a plurality of voters in the country are independent of the major parties and the two-party system that they have created? More…
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